In a highly superstitious country, you rarely see 13 people seated at a single table or a high-rise building with a 17th floor, and it appears that AC Milan are doing their best to introduce another number-based myth to the peninsula.
While the origins of those historical ‘curses’ revolve around symbols placed on Italian tombstones and the guests in attendance at the last supper, respectively, there is a particular Rossoneri jinx can be closely linked to the Milan hierarchy.
Filippo Inzaghi vacated the No.9 shirt with an impressive return of 126 goals in 300 appearances in May 2012 and the (un)lucky few to inherit the famous jersey since have amassed a paltry 37 goals between them.
The outgoing Gonzalo Higuain’s short-lived spell at the club provided eight of those goals, but will be quickly forgotten by Rossoneri supporters as, despite finally having the pedigree that plenty of his recent predecessors did not, looked as though he would rather be elsewhere.
Therefore, when €35 million signing Krzysztof Piatek requested the number – as worn with previous club Genoa – Milan insisted that the young Pole was, as yet, undeserving of the honour.
“There is no superstition behind him not wearing the No.9,” claimed Sporting director Leonardo – almost immediately reinforcing the belief that it was indeed cursed.
“We made the decision. We think that right now, the No.9 should be earned.”
The first post-Inzaghi recipient, Alexandre Pato, could, after four seasons at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza registering an impressive 61 goals 143 appearances, claim to have done just that.
Whether Inzaghi – known for insisting on eating children’s biscuits pre-game and entering the field last – put a hex on the shirt he was vacating will never be known, but the Brazilian’s career then took a stunning nosedive.
The 2012/13 season began with injury pre-season and after two goals in seven games, was back in his homeland by January.
After a two-year break, it was Roma starlet Mattia Destro attempting to bring glory back to the number, but during a miserable loan spell was seen celebrating on just three occasions, and now plies his trade with relegation-threatened Bologna.
World Cup and Champions League winner Fernando Torres brought a touch of prestige to the shirt at the start of the 2014/15 campaign but was himself struggling to repeat former glories and scored just once in 10 matches.
Investment was needed though and after paying just €14 million to Shakhtar Donetsk for the services of Luiz Adriano, it is unlikely that a curse was the reason for the Brazilian failing to continue a strike rate of a goal every two games on Italian shores.
The club decided to look closer to home. Yet in an equally baffling decision, handed the increasingly burdensome task to Gianluca Lapadula, who had barely played a single game in Serie A.
Despite scoring 30 goals the previous year as Pescara secured promotion from Serie B, the Italian was reminded that his level was closer to the second tier and not challenging for European qualification, and left with just eight goals to his name.
In a move not dissimilar to Piatek’s, in came Andre Silva. A young striker of immense promise, but arguably not yet fit to fill that famous shirt.
10 strikes in 40 appearances is not the worst tally, particularly compared to his predecessors, although eight of those came amongst the mediocrity of the Europa League group stages, and La Liga gave the Portuguese an escape route from the bright lights of Milan.
The overwhelming connection between all of these players, possibly bar Higuain, is not a curse, but that they were, for one reason or another, part of one of the worst transfer strategies in Milan’s history.
It is no coincidence that since Inzaghi hung up his boots in 2012, the Rossoneri barely challenged for a Scudetto or won a single trophy.
A curse? No. A sign that Milan as a whole need to get their house in order? Yes!